CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - After almost 40 years, former Virginia Governor Gerald Baliles is now taking a step back from it all. The director of the University of Virginia Miller Center of Public Affairs is stepping down on December 31.

Baliles is reflecting back on his time at the helm of the state and his accomplishments at UVA. There are two ways to know Gerald Baliles: one as a heavyweight in the Democratic Party in the 70s and 80s, and the other as an engineer of public policy with no shades of red or blue.  

Walking down the halls of the Miller Center, Baliles can't help but stop and look at the pictures on the walls, brief snapshots documenting eight years.

But getting to this point took a lot of hard work for Baliles, starting as a child interested in the larger world around him. "That led to a lot of intellectual curiosity about geography about people about customs about cultures," he stated.

Baliles spent 14 years in the political spotlight, first as a state delegate, then attorney general, and ending with a four-year term as Virginia's 65th governor from 1986 to 1990. "I enjoyed it immensely, but I don't miss it," he said.

Baliles says, as governor, economic growth was his end goal through the long-term planning of education and transportation. "If you don't have an educated citizenry you can't compete and if you can't compete you can't grow. I think it's that fundamental," he stated.

Once leaving public office, Baliles spent 16 years traveling the world for a law firm. It took UVA three tries to bring him to the Miller Center in 2006.

Under his leadership, the center launched the National Discussion and Debate Series. He also assembled the National War Powers Commission, a commission that is influencing how Congress and the president wage war. It has produced pending legislation that both senators Tim Kaine and John McCain support.

"It's almost word for word what the Miller Center's report recommended," Baliles said.

Baliles says the unique work done at the Miller Center will continue to bring together the world's best thinkers to impact decisions made that affect us all.  "Behind every policy, behind every program, there's a history and if you don't understand that history you are likely to repeat the mistake,” he stated.

After retiring at the end of the year, Baliles and his wife, Robin, plan to stay in Charlottesville. He says they will travel to places his wife wants to go, catch up on reading, and they plan to do some fly fishing out west.

The new executive director of the Miller Center will be UVA alumnus William Antholis of Charlottesville. Antholis is the managing director of the Brookings Institution and has held key positions at the White House and State Department.  Antholis will take over the post in January. He says he is honored to build on the legacy of past Miller Center directors.